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ESO make a triumphant return, topping a varied bill at The Borderline

ESO 48Hours tour poster

While the return of ESO was set to be a triumphant one, London couldn’t help but feel overshadowed by the more recently announced Camden Rocks, happening on the same night. With a lot of bands of a similar ilk poised to steal ESO’s glory, The Borderline still managed to fill out by the end of the night – which goes to show the strong following this band has forged over their years together.

Starting off the night was aAnd? - replacing Imicus - who march on stage in checkered morph suits and mouth piece microphones. The comical three piece explode into an barrage of quirky grindcore, complete with spontaneous animal noise breakdowns. What first seems like a very confusing metal act quickly becomes a universally amusing tongue-in-cheek approach to grindcore. Between every song being “dedicated to the ladies” and the inter-song banter, it was pretty clear these guys don’t take themselves too seriously. At times down tempo and heavy, at others frantic, and with sporadic technical passages, aAnd?’s set certainly leaves the sparse crowd amused.

The venue begins to fill out a little more in time for 48Hours to hit the stage. Following the silliness of aAnd?, 48Hours bring a more traditional approach to rock – however they’re far from bland. Consisting of members from prior bands Colt 44 and After The Ordeal, their experience in songwriting and performing certainly shines through. With riffs and choruses akin to Breaking Benjamin or Sevendust, they have the pristine balance between heaviness and catchiness. Showcasing an array of upcoming material, as well as some songs from their 2014 album Recovery, all of the band’s material has character.

The vocals occasionally suffer from pitching issues – notably during some harmony parts – but with the band’s high energy, this is easily forgotten. Several of the new songs have a more mellow vibe to them; their closing song in particular has a strong Tool influence. It would not be impossible to imagine seeing these lads playing bigger stages soon.

As the room begins to become a lot fuller and the crowd moves to the front, ESO take to the stage and it’s clear that they have been missed, with some fans travelling as far as Africa to come and see them. Their wide appeal becomes even more apparent when you consider the wide range of ages, fan groups and subcultures all crowding to the stage.

They kick off with an older song, “Exposed“, which the majority of the crowd sing along to just as fervently as to more recent material. While their older songs are a lot rawer than the synth-backed tunes from 2012’s Nothing Left To Lose, they blend nicely together with ESO’s distinct post-goth rock style.

The sound isn’t the best I’ve heard, but they make use of the intimate venue, with friendly interaction with the crowd and each other. Vocalist Tobias Keast has a rock star persona about him, yet never seems egotistical, and even manages to amuse the crowd several times throughout the set. His smooth baritone vocals are occasionally lost in the sound but shine through in the choruses – bolstered by the majority of the crowd singing back at him.

The rest of the band remain solid throughout the set, with the addition of Will Keast on live keys an added bonus to the ESO sound – making their set a lot less rigid.

With songs big enough to fill arenas such as “Running Blind“, “Scream” and “The Divide“, I can only hope that in their return, ESO can work their way back to being a band playing much larger venues, as if their last few releases were anything to go by, then their next effort will be superb.

The band have just announced their next London show at O2 Academy 2 Islington on Saturday 12th September as a 10 year anniversary of their first album (back as esOterica) The Fool.

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